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Our School Sites are the Heart of the Matter

The following speech was given at the February 21, 2018 Board of Education meeting by BFT President Cathy Campbell.

Good Evening Board Members and Superintendent Evans,

My name is Cathy Campbell and I am the President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.  

We are here tonight - students, parents, families, teachers, counselors, and classified staff - to say NO CUTS TO SCHOOL SITES!

Our students and families, and our school communities, need every resource they have.  Now is not the time to be proposing that our sites make do with less.  Less support around attendance and being in class, less support to our largest elementary site, less academic and crisis counseling for our students, less structure and connection for our older adults, and less investment in safety for our students and staff.

Our sites are where the heart of the matter lies.  We urge Board members to reject all cuts at sites and to prioritize the actual places and relationships where teaching and learning take place.

Regarding BHS specifically, the Budget Advisory Committee spent months learning about what our Academic Counselors do; about the changes to the BHS Health Clinic that have had a HUGE impact on students, their needs and the demands on Academic Counselors; and about what a cut in FTE would mean for students and for our equity goals at BHS.  From that all parties concluded a reduction in Counselor positions was not a good idea, and District staff changed their recommendation.  We would ask that all members of the Board respect that.  Our counselors need to be acknowledged for their herculean efforts on behalf of our students.

Our Dean of Attendance and our BHS Safety Officers provide daily, concrete support to students.  Our Dean helps with attendance both to SCHOOL and to CLASS.  Cutting this position may actually reduce revenue.  The vital role of BHS Safety Officers has been well covered this evening and we urge Board members to carefully weigh this information in your final decisions.

Our Older Adult program at Berkeley Adult School will also be harmed by a 15% reduction in support.  We urge you to avoid this very small amount of savings ($10,000) that will have a big impact on that program.  Berkeley has been a leader in rejecting the short-sighted vision Governor Brown has put forth for Adult Education, and we implore this Board to keep the contribution to the Older Adult program steady for the next few years as the State of California catches up to our broad vision.

Lastly, we want to once again call on this Board to be planning NOW for compensation negotiations that will take place with BFT next year.  Our members did not get a raise this year, and the raise next year is small.  The cost of benefits continues to rise annually.  The cost of living in the Bay Area continues to rise.  Our ability to recruit and retain teachers is directly impacted by our compensation, especially in the very tight labor market for educators.  Having the highest quality teachers in front of our students every day, and having stability in our teaching force, with all of the proven benefits that such stability has for students, is the number one responsibility we all share.   

Salary is a critical factor in the equation for teachers considering BUSD, and teachers deciding whether or not they will STAY in BUSD.  We urge Board members to conserve the vast majority of the new ongoing funds and the new one-time funds included in the Governor’s proposed budget for 2018-2019 as a very prudent step in anticipation of next year’s negotiations.

In addition, we encourage the Board to look closely at those areas where costs are rising very significantly.  These areas include:

  • Special Education: As the Board knows, Special Ed costs increased $3.5 million between 2014-2015 and 2016-2017.  We urge the Board to sunshine the consultant’s report on Special Ed and to prioritize acting to control costs.
  • Food Services: This program currently requires a roughly $1 million contribution in order to balance the budget, and this contribution has grown significantly in the last two years.  We urge action to control costs here as well.
  • Legal Costs: These costs have doubled in the last five years.  We urge the Board to figure out why this has occurred and to take steps beyond the proposed reduction for next year to get this under control.

Once again all of us here tonight say: NO CUTS TO SCHOOL SITES!  Thank you for your attention this evening.